Sport

SUBSTANCE OVER STYLE

Broos’s Bafana Bafana on brink of reaching Afcon final, despite ‘boring football’ tag 

Broos’s Bafana Bafana on brink of reaching Afcon final, despite ‘boring football’ tag 
Thapelo James Morena of Bafana and Petrus Shitembi of Namibia during the their Africa Cup of Nations match on January 21, 2024 in Korhogo, Ivory Coast. (Photo: Segun Ogunfeyitimi/Gallo Images)

As much as its purpose is entertainment, professional sports is a results game. Bafana Bafana are on the cusp of reaching their first Afcon final since 1998. Despite their style of play being branded as dull at best.

One of the criticisms of the Bafana Bafana team that the masses have bemoaned in the last decade or so is that the team plays boring football. Which makes watching them a chore. This notion has been amplified under the tutelage of Hugo Broos.

This is despite the results and progression that have come as a consequence of the coach foregoing the flash and flair that South Africans generally yearn for in football matches.

In the lead-up to their mesmerising foray into the semifinals of the Africa Cup of Nations, currently taking place in Ivory Coast, Bafana managed to embark on a 12-game unbeaten run.

Prior to a shock loss versus Rwanda in their first game of 2026 Fifa World Cup qualification late last year, the South Africans had not lost in over 12 months of football. Their last defeat came back in June 2022, when they were defeated by the Atlas Lions of Morocco.

Nevertheless, this positive run under Broos was never enough to convince South Africa’s football-mad citizens to head to the stadiums and support the team. Broos’s men had been regularly playing to the echoes of their own voices, as opposed to being cheered on by their compatriots.

Hugo Broos, Bafana

Bafana Bafana coach, Hugo Broos. (Photo :Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

A cloud of nostalgia  

Perhaps it is due to nostalgia. After all, the team once had players such as Doctor Khumalo and John “Shoes” Moshoeu — players who danced and left opposition defenders dizzy on the field.

Players such as Orlando Pirates legend Jomo Sono, as well as the likes of former Kaizer Chiefs superstars Nelson “Teenage” Dladla and Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe — remain rooted in the hearts of many football-loving South Africans, owing to their twinkle-toed displays during their careers.

Even in the 2000s, this profile of players was still relevant — especially at Chiefs and Pirates. Hence players such as Jabu “Shuffle” Pule (now Mahlangu), Steve “Chippa” Lekoelea, Emmanuel “Scara” Ngobese were able to forge reputations for themselves.

sa return international

Doctor Khumalo in action for South Africa. (Photo: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images)

Despite the perception that European coaches stifle the natural creativity and flamboyance of South African players, Mahlangu (who is one of the most aesthetically appealing players that the country has ever produced), enjoyed the most fruitful spell of his career under the guidance of Romanian coach Ted Dumitru.

It was the same for a number of Pirates’ fleet-footed players under the tutelage of Serbia’s Kosta Papić. The 63-year-old had a plethora of gifted players on his roster when he was at the helm of the Buccaneers ship between 2004 and 2006.

He granted the likes of Lekoelea, Gift Leremi, Joseph Makhanya and Lebohang “Cheeseboy” Mokoena creative license. The result was Papić’s Pirates being considered one of the most entertaining outfits to be assembled in South African football history.

However, by the time the Serbian coach jumped the Sea Robbers’ ship in 2006, they had nothing to show for it. Having finished runners-up in the race for the league title twice in a row and failed to win any major cup competition as well.

“Two years in a row, we were second. But people were not complaining because of the style of play. It looks like the style of play is more important than winning trophies,” Tyren Arendse, who was also part of that super team, told KickOff a couple of years ago.

“If you play beautiful football and do not win anything, they will be happy. The problem with supporters is that sometimes they just don’t know what they want.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Williams’s goalkeeping heroics in high-stress game sneak Bafana into Afcon semis

Bafana head coach, Hugo Broos

Bafana head coach, Hugo Broos. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

Broos and Bafana Bafana know exactly what they want. To win Afcon. How they do it is not important. Even if they do it by playing a “boring brand” of football.

South Africa’s Belgian coach said as much after his team edged Cape Verde 2-1 on penalties to reach a first Afcon semifinal in 24-years, stating: “I’ve said it already. It’s not the way you win. It’s about winning [full stop].”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Share your message of support for Bafana Bafana

There may be many who are likely displeased with this stance. However, sport is about results, maybe even more than it is about entertainment. And when their Afcon campaign ends, Bafana will be judged on whether they won the tournament or not. Not on what type of football they played throughout the tournament. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • James Baxter says:

    As long as you win it’s okay. Winning is the only option everything else is irrelevant within the context of the game, not everything in general of course

  • I watched BB in the QF’s match against Cape Verde and was amazed by the poor quality of the team’s play and lack of control and awareness between the forwards, midfield and backs. BB’s defenders looked panic stricken every time CV attacked down the left flank or approached the 18yd box with players dithering, holding onto the ball too long or wildly kicking it into touch. The same lack of cohesion was apparent among the forwards where players like Percy Tau shot aimlessly and wildly at the opposition’s goal instead of linking up with his fellow wingers and forwards to launch a coordinated pattern of attacking play. In summary BB on current form are lucky to get to the final and here’s hoping the team finds some form and consistency of play before then.

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